By Teo Spengler

Easy-to-grow strawberries are a good fit for the home garden and a delight all summer long. The plants do not take up much space, but they require full sun and well-drained soil. Gardeners putting in their first crop should purchase plants from a reliable nursery and store appropriately until early spring planting time.

Gardeners can choose from three different types of strawberries to plant in early spring. The most popular type, June-bearer, produces one crop of strawberries each year, ready to eat in June. The everbearing strawberry variety produce two crops, one in spring and one in late summer, with little action in between. Day-neutral strawberries are the new kid on the block–a new, improved version of the everbearing variety. They bear fruit from June through September.

The variety of berry determines the planting design. When spring arrives, gardeners should plant June-bearing strawberries at least 18 inches apart in evenly-spaced rows some 4 feet apart. Each plant produces runners which root daughter plants in a matted swath of plants. If you select everbearing or day-neutral varieties, plant them about a foot apart in rows that are also a foot apart. Both of these varieties produce better without daughter plants, so eliminate runners as they appear.

The optimal time to plant any type of strawberry is late March or April, after all chance of freezing weather is past. Before putting the plants in the soil, prune off older leaves, then soak the roots of the plants in water for one hour. The planting holes must be deep enough that the plant crown is even with the soil surface. Strawberry plants need water immediately after planting.

Some gardeners prefer to plant strawberries in the fall instead of spring. Strawberry plants set in the ground in autumn develop strong root systems before winter cold arrives. In spring, they can devote their energy to vigorous growth. However, winter frosts and subsequent thaws can cause ground heaving that injures strawberry plants.